Several times a year, Susanna and I make the journey to South Central Pennsylvania, Chambersburg to be specific, for her Board to Trustees meetings at Wilson College. While she attends her meetings I usually wonder the countryside looking for interesting subject. My usual subjects are old German (Pennsylvania Dutch) barns, covered bridges or just some nice scenery. However, this part of Pennsylvania is also rich in history and one can find forts dating back to pre revolution days, and of course a considerable amount of Civil War activity and battlefields with Gettysburg 30 miles to the East and Antietam about 40 miles to the south.
We normally reserve our drive through Antietam for the return trip to Washington DC where we fly in and out of. However, we kind of reversed our normal plan and visited the Antietam Battlefield and the surrounding area at the beginning of the trip. On this pass through I saw a barn that I wanted to return to and during that excursion revisited the battlefield itself. It’s hard to visit these two places without the sense that something tragic happened, probably more so for Antietam as not a lot of people realize that Antietam ranks as the bloodiest one day action in American history with approximately 23,000 deaths and injuries. The result of Antietam lead President Lincoln to issue his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. (Antietam web site). There were only 6 other Civil War Battles that extended beyond one day that saw greater total casualties. These are Gettysburg (51,000), Chickamauga, (34,624), Wilderness (29,800), Chancellorsville (24,000), Shiloh (23,746) and Stones River (23,515). Think of it, the total casualty count from these 7 engagements was approximately 210,000.
The National Park Service has done an excellent job of converting and maintaining these historic battlefields to the conditions they were in at the time of the clash of armies. Corn fields, fences, orchards, forests are essential as they were, so visiting and exploring the battlefield is a journey to those days. During this visit and while driving through the battlefield, I saw this big oak tree at the end of a walk way to the small Mumma Farm Cemetery. It is pretty well located in the middle of the action, a little south of the Cornfield and a little north the the Sunken Road (Bloody Lane). As a grainy black and white it seems to capture the feeling of the place. Below is an image looking Northwest from the observation tower at the Sunken Road with the Visitors Center in the background. This was taken a couple of years ago on another visit.